Breast cancer support group Y-Me shuts down

July 13, 2012

The people who run the Y-Me national breast cancer organization plan to file for bankruptcy.

A board member for the Y-Me breast cancer organization says the group expects to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy soon.

Saturday morning, Y-Me will e-blast its donors, volunteers, and supporters, to thank them, and tell them that it is official: Y-Me is no longer.

The Y-Me website no longer works. No one answers the 24-7 hotline for breast cancer survivors. Its office on LaSalle Street is closed.

"Did we know there were some financial issues? Yes. But did we believe they could be solved? Yes," said Margaret Harte, the founder of Y-Me's signature fundraiser, the annual race on Mother's Day, and a two-time breast cancer survivor.

The first race was in 1990, and she's hopeful there are more to come for, perhaps, a revamped organization.

"I just know this is chapter x,y,z... and I absolutely do not want to sit here today and say that is the end," said Harte.

This year, more than 20,000 women took part in the race, raising about $2 million, but board member and former executive director Sharon Green says it was not enough money to sustain the hotline.

"I think it's important to say that mission was quite accomplished... and we help about 40,000 people a year," said Green. "It's just a sad time that we had to close it."

Financially, Y-Me was strapped. According to Charity Navigator, a non-profit that tracks 501-c-3s, Y-Me was in the hole $1.6 million for fiscal year 2011.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says the group did not meet 5 of its 20 standards - mainly, it didn't provide an annual report to the BBB.

"The charity should provide you something - if not an annual report, they should provide the financial statements in some way, shape or form, but not providing it all, the donor is not given the opportunity to research it themselves," said Steve Bernas of the BBB of Chicago.

Y-Me was founded nearly 35 years ago when two women, Mimi Kaplan and Ann Marcou, found support in one another while battling breast cancer. They started a hotline, it only grew from there.

Some core supporters do believe this is just a transition, not the end.

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